“The Heart is as a Mirror” – Imam al-Ghazzali (Marvels of the Heart)

Posted on June 10, 2011 by



One of the diseases among activists is the constant struggle to change the world rather then engaging in self-rectification. When in the face of oppression and trials, some activists argue that there is no time for self-rectification and the liberation of such and such group of people from impending annihilation is a priority. Rhetoric side, they often set aside the pursuit of beneficial knowledge, sound worship, and righteous living and furthermore look down upon the pious worshipers, the rightly guided scholars, and the saints.

The flaw of this sort of thinking is at multiple levels and it should come to no surprise that activists often feel “spiritually burned out” as what they are promoting as a cure is actually a disease. Firstly, the activist perceives himself as the agent of change when in reality Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is the agent of change. (“Verily Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves [i.e. their hearts]”). Secondly, the activist fails to properly prioritize their needs and the needs of the community. At the end of the day, the pursuit of worldly power is similar to building a sandcastle along the beach – the tides of eternity will crash down and ultimately wipe away the world – ruler and ruled along with it. The following hadeeth suffices as proof of the importance of the purification of the heart:  “Allah does not look at your bodies nor your forms, but He looks at your hearts and your actions.”

Ultimately, the purpose of faith is not to dominate others nor to be dominated but to be worthy enough of salvation in the Hereafter and to be honored with the Beatific Vision. As as is stated in the Hikam, “Actions are mere propped up forms what gives them life is the intention contained within it.” The formation of intention takes place in none other than the heart and thus the heart is the locus of the true seeker of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) – the Eternal and All-Powerful. The purification of the heart is an individual obligation (fardh ‘ayn) whereas activism is often a communal obligation (fardh kaffayah). If one is sincere to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), then the pursuit of a sound heart ought to be the highest priority.

Imam al-Ghazzali (rahmutallah alayh) in “The Marvels of the Heart” writes:

“The heart is as a  mirror that is surrounded by these factors which exert their influence upon it. These influences reach the heart in uninterrupted succession. The praiseworthy influences that we have mentioned add to the clearness, shining, illumination, and brightness of the mirror so that the clear statement of the Real (jalliyat al-Haqq) shines therein, and there is revealed in it the real nature of the thing sought in religion. To such a heart as this is the reference of the Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) in his saying “Whenever God wills good for a man He causes his heart to exhort him”; and in his saying (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) “The man whose heart is his exhorter has a protector from God over him.” This is the heart in which there abides the remembrance (dhikr) [of God]. God, the Exalted said, “Verily in remembrance of God do hearts find rest!” (13:28). 

Further Learning

“The Marvels of the Heart” taught by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus (SeekersGuidance)


Further Reading

“The Marvels of the Heart” by Imam al-Ghazzali


May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) make us among the pure hearted, bestow upon us knowledge that benefits, and increase the baraka in our works. Ameen.

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